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Is Barack Obama an imperial president?

President Obama’s use of executive action to get around congressional gridlock is unparalleled in modern times, some scholars say. But to liberal activists, he’s not going far enough.

Monitor staff writer Linda Feldmann discusses her MonitorWeekly cover story on President Obama with Pat Murphy of CSMonitor.com.
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Ju Hong's voice rang out loud and clear, interrupting the most powerful man in the world.

"You have a power to stop deportation for all undocumented immigrants in this country!" the young South Korean man yelled at President Obama during a speech on immigration reform last November in San Francisco. Waving away security guards, Mr. Obama turned and addressed Mr. Hong, himself undocumented. "Actually, I don't," the president said. "And that's why we're here."

"We've got this Constitution, we've got this whole thing about separation of powers," Obama continued. "So there is no shortcut to politics, and there's no shortcut to democracy."

The reality isn't so simple. Obama, a former constitutional law lecturer, was once skeptical of the aggressive use of presidential power. During the 2008 campaign, he accused President George W. Bush of regularly circumventing Congress. Yet as president, Obama has grown increasingly bold in his own use of executive action, at times to controversial effect.

The president (or his administration) has unilaterally changed elements of the Affordable Care Act (ACA); declared an anti-gay-rights law unconstitutional; lifted the threat of deportation for an entire class of undocumented immigrants; bypassed Senate confirmation of controversial nominees; waived compliance requirements in education law; and altered the work requirements under welfare reform. This month, the Obama administration took the highly unusual step of announcing that it will recognize gay marriages performed in Utah – even though Utah itself says it will not recognize them while the issue is pending in court.

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